QUOTE OF THE DAY…. By now, the pattern should be rather familiar: policymakers identify an issue in urgent need of attention; Democrats propose a worthwhile solution; Republicans balk; and President Obama delivers a big, high-profile speech to put things right.
With this in mind, the president was in New York City earlier, speaking from Cooper Union about the need to bring safeguards and accountability to a financial industry that nearly destroyed the global economy. It was less a stirring address and more a prosecutor’s closing argument. Treating financiers like a skeptical jury, the president urged Wall Street to change course: “[Pending proposals] represent significant improvement on the flawed rules we have in place today, despite the furious efforts of industry lobbyists to shape them to their special interests. I am sure that many of those lobbyists work for some of you. But I am here today because I want to urge you to join us, instead of fighting us in this effort. I am here because I believe that these reforms are, in the end, not only in the best interest of our country, but in the best interest of our financial sector.”
Obama also took a moment to defend his commitment to the free market, though he added, “a free market was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it.”
But it was a quote from a magazine article that was perhaps the most memorable aspect of the remarks:
“There has always been a tension between the desire to allow markets to function without interference — and the absolute necessity of rules to prevent markets from falling out of balance. But managing that tension, one we’ve debated since our founding, is what has allowed our country to keep up with a changing world. For in taking up this debate, in figuring out how to apply our well-worn principles with each new age, we ensure that we do not tip too far one way or the other — that our democracy remains as dynamic as the economy itself. Yes, the debate can be contentious. It can be heated. But in the end it serves to make our country stronger. It has allowed us to adapt and thrive.
“I read a report recently that I think fairly illustrates this point. It’s from Time magazine. And I quote: ‘Through the great banking houses of Manhattan last week ran wild-eyed alarm. Big bankers stared at one another in anger and astonishment. A bill just passed … would rivet upon their institutions what they considered a monstrous system … Such a system, they felt, would not only rob them of their pride of profession but would reduce all U.S. banking to its lowest level.’ That appeared in Time magazine — in June of 1933. The system that caused so much concern and consternation? The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation — the FDIC — an institution that has successfully secured the deposits of generations of Americans.
“In the end, our system only works – our markets are only free – when there are basic safeguards that prevent abuse, that check excess, that ensure that it is more profitable to play by the rules than to game the system. And that is what these reforms are designed to achieve: no more, no less. Because that is how we will ensure that our economy works for consumers, that it works for investors, that it works for financial institutions – that it works for all of us.
“This is the central lesson not only of this crisis but of our history. It’s what I said when I spoke here two years ago. Ultimately, there is no dividing line between Main Street and Wall Street. We rise or we fall together as one nation.”
It’s funny, in a way — hysterical conservatives offer the same shrieks, generation after generation, and with the benefit of hindsight, they always look ridiculous.
Nevertheless, there’s been a fair amount of progress in the Senate of late, and success appears all but inevitable. Here’s hoping the president sealed the deal.